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April Is the Month of the Military Child
Each April, the Defense Department recognizes the nation's 1.8 million military children for their contributions to their families' well being and sacrifices on behalf of the nation by celebrating the Month of the Military Child throughout April.1 Service members with children across the nation can take this opportunity to spend time with their loved ones while also learning about the importance of family resilience and readiness. The information and resources below can help you communicate with your family throughout the entire deployment cycle.
Communicate with Your Children Using Fun Family Activities
The Month of the Military Child is a great opportunity to find new ways to bond with your kids. Use the information below to find fun and educational resources to try with your children.
Volunteer to write letters or do activities together
Flags Across the Nation brings military families together to write letters to deployed service members, make blankets for wounded warriors and create art using Flags Across the Nation's free online coloring pages to send to warriors. You can also use this activity as an opportuniity to talk about a parent's deployment or homecoming to help address any concerns your children may have about changes at home.
Color in story books specially designed for military children
Coloring can provide children a way to have fun playing while also learning about issues they may face when a parent deploys. Download and print the coloring sheets Goodbyes are Hard [PDF 812KB], I Can Do That! [PDF 792KB] and Coloring Book Pages for Kids [PDF 2.2MB], or ask your installation’s family readiness group or military family life consultant about where to find additional coloring books for your children.
Create and populate a family page
Military Families Near and Far encourages families to work together to develop a family page within the website. Families can create artwork, write stories or record messages and add them to the family scrapbook on your family page. Use this online tool from the Sesame Workshop to help your family stay connected during deployment.
Learn about a parent's deployment
“Where are You Going?” on MilitaryKidsConnect.org helps children explore the country where a deployed parent is located and learn about cultural elements such as typical foods, traditional clothing and language. The interactive map can help families cope with separation by helping parents or caregivers at home start a conversation about what the deployed parent might be doing or help families share what they’ve learned when communicating with the deployed parent.
Communicate with Your Children About Deployment
The producers of Sesame Street have developed an excellent video series titled “Talk, Listen, Connect: Deployments, Homecomings, Changes.” This programming is designed to help families communicate better and build understanding about the difficulties of multiple deployments, homecomings and changes related to a parent’s injury.
The resources above are excellent ways to share activities and communicate with your children. Take advantage of these opportunities to talk with your children and understand how they are feeling about changes in the home. The more you know about your children's concerns, the better chance you have at easing their anxieties. Use the tips below to effectively reach children of all ages when it’s time to discuss the meaning of deployment.2
Be thoughtful about sharing your emotions
Try not to share too much (by losing control) or too little (by showing no emotion) with your children.
Maintain family routines
Regular activities like family games, bed times or celebrations are important to keep up.
Listen to your children and their concerns
Kids can have difficulties expressing concerns about their parent's deployment and changes at home, so be available when they are ready to communicate. As children open up, be prepared for a range of emotions.
Mr. Poe and Friends is a video program that provides guidance to children ages 6-11 as they transition through the different stages of a parent's deployment. The program also features the voices of real military children, families and military professionals, as well as facilitators’ guides.
Monitor media coverage in your household
Limit children’s exposure to media coverage of ongoing conflicts to help reduce their anxiety about a parent’s deployment.
Take care of yourself
Find time to relax, spend time with family and friends and stay healthy. By caring for yourself, you are better positioned to provide support to your loved ones. (Read the Real Warriors article “Caring for Yourself While Helping Support Your Service Member” for more information.)
You Are Not Alone
Additional tools for family support are always available. If you need assistance finding resources for your children or service member, don’t hesitate to log on to Real Warriors Live Chat or call the DCoE Outreach Center at 866-966-1020. Trained health resource consultants are available 24/7 to offer free, confidential guidance on resources for resilience, recovery and reintegration for all military families.
- Blue Star Families
- Child and Youth Programs (Navy)
- Military Child Education Coalition
- Resiliency Programs for Military Families
- National Military Family Association
- Real Warriors Campaign Message Boards
- Stay Involved booklet [PDF 500KB]
- Youth Programs (Air Force)
- United Through Reading
1 Sanchez, Elaine. “Official: Take Time to Honor Military Kids' Service,” American Forces Press Service. Published March 30, 2012.
2"Helping Children Cope During Deployment,” [PDF 425 KB], Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Last accessed March 6, 2014.